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|City, war and geopolitics : the relations between militia political violence and the built environment of Beirut in the early phases of the Lebanese civil war (1975-1976)
|The thesis deals with the relationships between political violence and the built environment of Beirut during the early phases of the Lebanese civil war (1975-1976). It investigates how the daily practices of urban warfare and the urban built fabric impacted on each other, and specifically how the violent targeting of the built fabric relates to contested discourses of power and identity enacted by the urban militias. The study is the result of residential fieldwork in Beirut, where I held in-depth interviews with former militia combatants, media representatives, academics and practitioners in urban studies and architecture, as well as conducting archival search into bibliographical, visual and microfilm sources in Arabic, English and French. Official geopolitical discourses in international diplomacy about the civil war between 1975 and 1976 focused on nation-state territoriality, and overlooked a number of complex specifications of a predominantly urban conflict. This led occasionally to an oversimplification of the war and of Beirut as chaos. Reading the official discourses side by side with unofficial militia accounts, I argue instead that state and non-state narratives coexisted in the urban warfare, and their intermingling produced geographical specifications that were particularly visible in the built environment. Both official and unofficial accounts were permeated of colonial references to the sectarian structure of the Lebanese society. In the thesis, I adopt a discursive and post-colonial approach to these references. Beirut's built fabric became a contested site where the militias enacted different visions of the same territorial discourse: the nation state of Lebanon. This enactment took place through the occupation, division and destruction of portions of the city. Beirut's built environment played a central role in actively shaping and giving materiality to contested ideas of territory, identity, and security. Therefore, the thesis offers a resourceful and critical approach to the study of the impact of conflict on everyday city life.
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|School of Geography, Politics and Sociology
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